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What Do Neil Patrick Harris and Jennifer Gerarda Brown Have in Common?

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In “Proposition 8 — The Musical,” Neil Patrick Harris argues “there’s money to be made” — from weddings (and subsequent divorces) if California legalizes same-sex marriage. But my coauthor Jennifer Gerard Brown beat him to the punch. In “Competitive Federalism and the Legislative Incentives to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage” 68 S. CAL. L. REV. 745 (1995) she:

estimated that the present value of a change in marriage law for the first-mover state could reach three or four billion dollars. [E]ach tourist dollar spent generates additional private income, tax revenue, and jobs. Forbes magazine recently estimated that if same-sex couples currently living together would marry, they would spend $16.8 billion in the first several years following legalization.

Brad Sears
and Lee Badgett have estimated that same-sex marriage would “boost California state and local government revenues by over $63.8 million.”

Jennifer and I have tried to further harness the potential economic incentives for a state legislature to embrace marriage equality by creating the

Vacation Pledge for Equal Marriage Rights

We, the undersigned, promise to vacation in the first state that democratically chooses (by either legislation or voter referendum) to legalize same-sex marriage within three years of the effective date of the legislation.

Lots of people around the country have been upset about the Prop 8 vote. The vacation pledge gives these people something concrete to do. The pledge lets anyone who supports same-sex marriage commit to an economic thank-you to the first state to legalize by legislation or voter referendum. (You can sign the form here and you can find out more info here.)

Of course, opponents of same-sex marriage can try to organize a vacation boycott against the first state that legalizes same-sex marriage. But there is an important economic asymmetry between boycotts (promises not to buy) and buycotts (promises to buy). There is less than a 5 percent chance that a random person will vacation in a particular state. So a “buycott” potentially moves a 5 percent chance toward a 100 percent vacation probability, while a “boycott” potentially moves a 5 percent chance toward 0 percent. You need a lot more boycotters to equal the same effect as a buycott for the simple reason that most of the boycotters wouldn’t have bought anyway.